When Is A Property Owner Liable For A Trespasser's Injuries?

Posted on: 30 August 2016

If a trespasser is hurt while on your property, is it possible that you can be held liable? It's a tricky situation, and it isn't a straight yes or no answer. Here's what you need to know about liability if a trespasser is injured while on property that you own.

You're Not Liable in General

In the majority of cases, you won't be liable if the trespasser is injured. The simple fact is that the trespasser shouldn't have been there and didn't have your permission to step on your land. If the trespasser was injured, he/she can only blame him/herself.

Judges will want to hear from the trespasser why he/she should be compensated. If the trespasser has no way of proving this, the judge will likely deem that the person contributed to the injury through negligence and unwillingness to follow the law.

When You Have Reasonable Expectation of Trespassers

If your land has trespassers on a regular basis, you can reasonably be expected to know that someone is likely to be on your land in the future. You should anticipate that there are risks to trespassers on your land, and that means you should make right or put up warnings that there are risks of injury.

People may take a shortcut to get to a park on the other side of the land. If you know that this is likely—because enough people have already done it—you need to put up signs on fencing, for example, to warn people of dangers like animal traps and personal shooting.

You Can't Set Up Traps

If you do know that people trespass, you can't set up traps to stop them. If you do and injuries occur, you will be deemed personally responsible. Even trespassers should expect not to be purposely hurt. Traps could include putting animal traps out for people to step in or digging covered trenches for them to fall in.

You also can't use deadly force or take part in deadly activities when you know trespassers are likely to be about. The only time you may get away with using deadly force is if you can prove that it was in self-defense.

Before you start looking for ways to keep trespassers out, consider whether you are willingly causing harm. If this is the case and harm does come to a person, you will likely be held liable. If a trespasser accidentally hurt him/herself while on your land, you will generally not be held liable. For more information, contact a lawyer, like one at Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas.